Squeezing in these swimming workouts for time poor triathletes will help maximize stroke skills in half the time, says Triathlon Plus SA Editor and triradar.com contributor Glen Gore.

Swimming can make the best use of your training hours

Let’s be honest, the swim portion of any triathlon for many is by far the most daunting. The training time it takes to prepare for the swim discipline is a big part of any triathlete’s schedule, especially for the novice and less experienced athletes.

A number of factors combine to ensure that training time becomes rather tricky when we talk swimming. Most of you will have jobs, families and other priorities that make training for the swim difficult. This article will help you maximise your swim training time and deliver the best possible end result for you personally. I’ve gone in search of the tricks of the trade for triathletes with little time to spend on swim training.

It may sound rather daft, but you can maximise your swim training time and performances by spending less time in the water. The correct gym and proper technique dry-land training methods can contribute to a stronger athlete, which in turn will contribute to faster swim times when racing. You don’t need a gym membership either to make this happen. Stretch cords are the easiest and most economical method to enhance your swim performance standing on dry land.

You wrap the cords around a secure immovable object and start dry-land swimming. Stretch cords will come with instructions and a little technical help from some experienced triathletes or swim coaches will get you up and running immediately. Done the correct way, a couple of hundred pulls per day or per week will increase your strength and contribute to you swimming faster. You can use the stretch cords at any time of the day, at home and at work. Trust me on this one, with a proper technical pull, you can cut down swim time in the pool and swim faster.   

Don’t panic. We’re not looking for a technically sound stroke in this instance. In fact, it will work no matter how ugly the end result is. What we are looking for is the effort it takes to get the arms out of the water during the butterfly stroke. If you have attempted butterfly before, you will know how much harder it is to swim than freestyle. You don’t need to swim miles and miles of it either to get the full benefits. Start off slowly with a few 25m repeats per session and gradually build up the distance over the course of a few weeks. Butterfly swimming is great for building your endurance and will most certainly improve your swim times on less mileage.

Far too often you find triathletes swimming miles and miles in the pool at a low-key intensity only to see the end result remain constant. Train slow and you will swim slow, no matter how many miles you manage to cram into your busy daily schedules. If you’re short of time you should hit the pool and swim hard and fast. A quick warm-up and then some high-intensity repeats ranging from 25m right up to 400m will boost your swim performance on less training time. You still need a base and swimming long and slow has its place, but you’ve got to mix it up a little and swim faster to maximise the gains. Swim fast and you will race faster!

If you’re short of time, you’re better off swimming hard and fast in training. Start out by trying this sample session.

  • 200m easy swim/100m easy kick/200m easy pulling
  • 8 x 25m maximum sprints, resting 15-30 seconds after each
  • 100m easy recovery swim
  • 2 x 400m repeats (swim the second one faster than the first and take a 2- minute rest in between)
  • 200-400m recovery swim.

We know this sounds crazy when you’re time poor. Swim more often when time allowance is at a premium? Yes indeed. Provided you have access to a swimming pool nearby your work or home, swimming more times per week but swimming less miles at the same time, will boost your swim performance. What exactly do I mean? It would be more beneficial for you if you were able to swim five times per week and do 1- 1.5km per session than swimming 3 times per week and doing 2-2.5km per session. It’s the same mileage more or less, but the consistency and frequency will enhance your swim performance over the long term. Combined with points 2 and 3, swimming more often (if possible and based on your own personal circumstances) and not necessarily swimming more miles will most definitely help your swim performance in competition.

Triathletes love gadgets, and with swim training things are no different, so adding an arsenal of essential swim tools to the training bag will help make you a better swimmer. This means you can target your weaknesses to make your swim sessions more effective.

A must for the novice and ‘sinker’. Not to be used all the time, these swim flippers are a definite advantage when

Using swimming aids can really boost your feel for the water

starting out with swimming training and in the early stages of your base training. They will certainly help with your butterfly stroke technique and can add some essential training drills to your program in the form of kicking that boosts the overall swim stroke.

These give you a greater reach in the water through the arm pull stroke and assist in your technique. Use these swim toys for targeted drills in the pool to achieve more in your sessions, and power through reps in double-quick time

Not just for scuba diving, a snorkel allows you to concentrate on watching your arm through the pull motion by keeping your head and eyes firmly on looking ahead without the need to rotate the head to breathe. A ‘still’ head also improves your posture and body position in the water. An added advantage of using the swimmer’s snorkel is the restriction of airflow into the lungs (some come with an adapter to limit air flow), which builds your oxygen capacity in the lungs by forcing you to work harder on less air.

Swimming will always be hard for most of us, but you can improve over time. Hopefully these pointers will make it easier to improve your swimming based on your busy lifestyle. Triathlon and swimming in particular are meant to be fun. Try to keep that attitude when you go out and put in the miles, and the progress will follow.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine – click here to subscribe

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